GM crops contaminate the countryside for up to 15 years after they
have been harvested, startling new government research shows.
The findings cast a cloud over the prospects of growing the modified crops
in Britain, suggesting that farmers who try them out for one season will find
fields blighted for a decade and a half.
Financed by GM companies and Margaret Beckett's Department of the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs, the report effectively torpedoes the Government's strategy
for introducing GM oilseed rape to this country.
Ministers have stipulated that the crops should not be grown until rules are
worked out to enable them to "co-exist" with conventional ones. But
the research shows that this is effectively impossible.
The study, published by the Royal Society, examined five sites across England
and Scotland where modified oilseed rape has been cultivated, and found significant
amounts of GM plants growing even after the sites had been returned to ordinary
crops. It concludes that the research reveals "a potentially serious problem
associated with the temporal persistence of rape seeds in soil."
The researchers found that nine years after a single modified crop, an average
of two GM rape plants would grow in every square metre of an affected field. After
15 years, this came down to one plant per square metre - still enough to break
the EC limits on permissible GM contamination.
Last night Pete Riley, the director of GM Freeze, said; "It is becoming
clearer and clearer that it is going to be impossible to grow GM crops in Britain."